By: James Smith
The baseball All-Star game, which was Tuesday night, feels like the only one of the All-Star Games in pro-sports that people really pay much attention to outside of being a resume-padder for the players who appear in it (probably because it occurs in-season). Now that we’ve seen the theatrics of the Home Run Derby and all the pageantry of the game itself, an 8-0 travesty featuring the forgettable Melky Cabrera as MVP, the more important question becomes: What did we learn?
Not The Usual Suspects. It should come as no surprise that more All-Stars tend to come from teams with better records; if an All-Star is one of the best players in the league up to the mid-summer break, then teams with more of them should be better. In the past, that’s meant AL squads dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox and NL teams featuring lots of Cardinals and Mets. This year, though, things were a little different, illustrating the sudden surge of long-dead franchises (and the falling apart of teams that are usually at the top of the league). While the Yankees had a bunch of players make the team, they were joined by no fewer than three Baltimore Orioles -- long the doormats of the AL East. Meanwhile, there are four Washington Nationals on the National League team.
Names of Tomorrow. This year’s All-Star Game was also notable for featuring a number of young up-and-comers who appear poised to very shortly become the game’s new superstars. Nationals Stephen Strasburg and (especially) Bryce Harper have been touted for a long time as potential building blocks for a Washington dynasty -- and both of them made it to the All-Star Game this year. Similarly, the Pittsburgh Pirates, one of the least successful teams in all of baseball for the past two decades, sent blossoming slugger Andrew McCutchen to Kansas City.
- Missing Fixtures. By the same token, a few familiar faces were notably absent -- depending on the situation, alternately a reflection of how injuries have decimated some team’s chances or simply a fact of the fading of some stars’ sheen. You could assemble a pretty decent team for either league based on who was too injured to play or has had poor performance due to injuries: Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Victor Martinez, Carl Crawford, Mariano Rivera, and Jacoby Ellsbury, among others, have been non-factors this year. Meanwhile, though Derek Jeter managed to find the elixir of youth the first two months of the season and was named a starter, notably missing were, for example, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez, two of the most dominant players of the last twenty years.
All of which is to say: the game wasn’t that great, but we still got a lot out of it.
[pic via Wikimedia - UCInternational]